I got smoked by a chick this weekend. Like properly dominated, and not even in a fun way. I don’t mind admitting it. She’s often one of the better surfers in the line-up, regardless of gender. She gets plenty of the waves she wants and picks off anything others miss. It’s gotten to the stage that if I see her take a couple of paddle strokes I just give up. She’s ultra-focused, does a bit of competition, and allegedly trains like a beast. Fair play. She gets respect because she earned it, and she seems to just do her thing and not worry about anyone else.
It got me thinking about women’s surfing. And it got me thinking about the recent headlines surrounding Silvana Lima, bemoaning the fact that she isn’t able to attract sponsorship because she isn’t attractive enough. Apparently she has to breed French Bulldogs to fund her surf travel. But honestly, so what? It might be a harsh proposition, but maybe she should just accept that professional surfing is not the career for her. Millions of others have been on the cusp of sporting success, but can’t make it work because of lack of funding, injuries, or sometimes just sheer hard luck.
No one said surfing was fair. No one said life was fair. Competitive surfing is a game, and it’s a game which revolves around money, marketing, and, truth be told, pretty faces. The latter most likely isn’t a surprise to anyone. Money may still make the world go ’round, but images are the most lucrative and transferable currency going. We see a new ad of Alana Blanchard from every brand who supports her every week. And until we stop obsessing over beauty and stop requiring professional surfers to be models, only a small slice of the gene pool will be eligible to participate. We’re not going to change genetic memory, no matter how well we surf. Human beings are hard-wired to obsess over sex and physical appearance. Sex: It’s kind of the point of life.
The superficial tendency of favoring attractive people is not a problem unique to surfing, it’s a world problem.
People with pretty faces get a punt up in life, it’s just the way it is. Being from Brazil–a place where people are famously obsessed with vanity and cosmetic surgery–Lima should be all too familiar with this. You don’t need to be good-looking to be successful, but it sure helps. It’s just nature. Animals instinctively know that the best way to ensure the survival of their species is by choosing a mate that has the strongest genes, and the outward expression (phenotypic) of those genes is physical appearance.
Perhaps Silvana Lima might take a lesson from fellow countryman and current world champ Adriano de Souza. Where is his big name “core” clothing sponsor, exactly? I ain’t seeing Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl, Hurley or Volcom stickers on his board. Is it because he doesn’t have the pouty, rouged lips and handsome torso of young Medina? Maybe. But do you hear him complain about it? Never. He just goes out and delivers. Wins a world championship. Take that, Surf Industry, you superficial fools!
There are many deep injustices in the world, but I’m afraid Silvana Lima’s inability to attract sponsorship just isn’t one of them. I feel sorry for her, I do, just as I feel sorry for anyone who is made to feel ugly. It’s not fair. But sometimes, sadly, that’s life.